Now, before you angrily nerd out at me for not obsessing over your favorite movies, you should understand that this is a sad tale – one that dates back a long, long time ago to the mid-1980s…
I don’t know where it came from, it had always just been there – an interactive Star Wars kids book hosted by C-3PO. Our robot friend led us on journeys throughout the universe where we could touch rocks that felt fuzzy and see some sparkling objects in the wild, among other things. Then there was the mushroom scene. C-3PO insisted on having readers scratch and sniff a space mushroom. It was the most disgusting, nasty smelling thing of all time. Why would someone intentionally create such a scent? And then market it to children?
That scent lingered with me all throughout my childhood. I remember seeing the VHS box set at a neighbor’s house and immediately suggested we watch something else. If the book was so appalling, how bad could the films be? I saw Darth Vader’s unveiling once flipping through channels, so that was kind of a major spoiler. The guy in the mask isn’t so intimidating when you know what he looks like the whole time.
It was years before I gave Star Wars another chance. I grew up in the years between the franchise’s hype. The 80s flicks were over and no one thought the next trilogy would ever happen. Instead, my early favorites were Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and anything X-Men. Star Wars was just off the radar for my age group.
My next intergalactic encounter was sometime in the early 90s at a Disney theme park when I experienced the Star Tours ride. Once again, C-3PO was hosting this adventure so I was pretty skeptical, but it turned out to be fun and a very immersive presence in the park. Plus Paul Reubens was one of the voice actors. As it turns out, there was a nearly identical ride at EPCOT that took passengers on a journey through the human body. The story interested me a bit more, so given the choice with a park-hopper pass I always went for Body Wars.
Again, I was left underwhelmed by my Star Wars experience. One of my friends eventually got a Star Wars game for Nintendo 64 and I thought it was decent. Finally, an experience that stood out on its own. A short time later, the movies were re-released in theaters. All the hype you see for the new movie now was pretty similar back then. Remember that Taco Bell toy box that was half-Yoda and half-Vader? Whoah, cool stuff there. And I liked tacos… a lot! So, between Meximelts and polygon enhanced video games, I was getting pretty pumped to finally see these movies with fresh eyes on the big screen. My mom wanted to see them again, too, so we made plans to see Star Wars on re-opening day.
But then there was the night before. We made a trip to the local video store. Throughout all the shelves and walls of VHS boxes, one really stuck out at me – Spaceballs, a Mel Brooks film. I knew he had some hand in one of my favorite TV shows, Get Smart, so I figured I’d check it out. I was really into Weird Al at the time, so I had a pretty good appreciation for parody even if I didn’t know the source material. The movie delivered the laughs and I thought it was incredibly entertaining.
I saw Star Wars the next night, which did not have a lot of laughs. In fact, it took itself pretty seriously. I went from seeing the Ghostbusters’ accountant as the hilarious bad guy to sitting through a complicated plot of epic proportions. Sadly, this was yet another let down of a Star Wars experience. But, hey, a great one for Spaceballs! I followed through with seeing The Empire Strikes Back when that was released. The first half of the movie was exciting, since I was finally seeing things the video game used as inspiration. I never got around to seeing Return of the Jedi.
The next hype came shortly after with the first film of the new trilogy coming out a couple years later. I heard the Weird Al song that pretty much explained the plot of the first episode before I saw the movie a few years later on VHS. Yep, he pretty much nailed it. But the pod race was pretty cool.
When I was moving away from home, I found the Star Wars book that started it all back in my youth. I turned to the page of mushrooms, C-3PO grinning in delight, encouraging me to scratch the fungus. I did. And it was still as putrid as ever.
So, here we are. Another new series of films is kicking off. The trailer makes The Force Awakens look like a fun movie, so I’ll probably give this franchise another shot, hoping it finally clicks with me. If not, there’s always Spaceballs and Weird Al.